The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced yesterday that California has been allocated $19.76 million in funding for the 2014 Specialty Crop Block Grant Program (SCBGP). The agency awarded approximately $66 million nationwide for projects that help support growers of specialty crops through research, market development, environmental stewardship and more.
The Specialty Crop Block Grant Program is designed to enhance the markets for specialty crops like fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture and nursery crops, including floriculture.
“California’s leadership in the production and development of specialty crops is due in large part to the innovative nature of our growers,” said CDFA Secretary Karen Ross. “The research, market development and other projects supported by this partnership with USDA help keep our farmers on the cusp of innovations from food safety to stewardship, from identifying niche markets to expanding international exports.”
Today’s announcement marks the beginning of the 2014 grant cycle. In 2013, CDFA was awarded approximately $18 million and solicited competitive proposals for projects including market enhancement, agriculture education, nutrition, and research. The 64 projects funded under the 2013 SCBGP reflect the diversity of California’s specialty crops across the state, including: creating economic opportunities for specialty crop producers through market development activities that focus on local, regional, or international markets; development of effective agritourism associations to enhance rural tourism and promote specialty crops; food safety benefits and training programs; growing community food systems in underserved neighborhoods; online irrigation nitrogen management tool for cool season vegetables; and research to mitigate impacts of invasive pests.
In addition, CDFA partnered with the Center for Produce Safety in the evaluation and recommendation of food safety related projects. These proactive research projects represent an ongoing effort to minimize outbreaks.
Information about the program, including California’s 2013 projects, is available online at www.cdfa.ca.gov/grants. Stay tuned for future announcements regarding the development and submission of proposals for the grant funds announced today. The USDA announcement, including award amounts by state, is available online at http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome?contentid=2014/04/0064.xml&contentidonly=true.
USDA posted the following:
Our dedication to strengthening rural America and increasing opportunities for specialty crop farmers will help keep our nation’s economy—and people—healthy for years to come.
As directed by the Farm Bill, USDA block grants are now allocated to U.S. States and territories based on a formula that takes into consideration both specialty crop acreage and production value. Nearly all states are seeing an increase in funds.
USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) encourages applicants to develop projects that enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops, sustain the livelihood of American farmers, and strengthen rural economies by:
• Increasing nutritional knowledge and specialty crop consumption among children and adults,
• Improving efficiency within the distribution system,
• Promoting the development of good agricultural, handling and manufacturing practices while encouraging audit cost-sharing for small farmers, packers, and processors,
• Supporting research through standard and green initiatives,
• Enhancing food safety,
• Developing new/improved seed varieties and specialty crops,
• Controlling pests and diseases,
• Creating organic and sustainable production practices,
• Establishing local and regional fresh food systems,
• Expanding access to specialty crops in underserved communities,
• Developing school and community gardens and farm-to-school programs,
Enhancing the competitiveness of specialty crop farmers, including Native American and disadvantaged farmers.